Ray Kurzweil, Inventor, Author and Futurist, spoke with Chairman of UBS Americas Bob McCann about what life might look like in the not too distant future. The fireside chat was part of The Year of Choices, The Decade of Transformation, the event that kicked off UBS's Year Ahead 2020 series in New York City on Thursday, January 23. Kurzweil, once called the "rightful heir to Thomas Edison" by Inc. Magazine, is an award-winning author and inventor who has been making technology predictions since the 1980s. In his first book, The Age of Intelligent Machines, Kurzweil foresaw the emergence of personal computers, wireless phones and privacy concerns in an interconnected world.
Many of his 147 predictions have come to fruition. One of his most well-known predictions was that, by the year 1998, a computer would beat the world champion of chess. In 1997, Garry Kasparov, who held the title at that time, was defeated by the IBM computer Deep Blue, proving Kurzweil's forecast. He also predicted that personal computers would one day be embedded within clothing and jewelry; that books, albums and movies would be distributed through data files—not physical objects—and that households would run on more than 100 computers.
Kurzweil sees a blurring line between human and machine. He foresees a merging of human consciousness with the digital world, predicting that future generations will have the option to upload their thoughts into new bodies. "In the 2030s, we'll actually connect the upper levels of our neocortex to the cloud," Kurzweil told McCann. "That will amplify what we're able to do…[I]t's really just like having a phone. It will amplify what we do and give us the tools to create new things that would be impossible today."
Virtual Reality (VR) will change how we function in the future, says Kurzweil. He expects current VR wearables, like headsets, to be replaced by glasses that will have the ability to remind you of someone's name and what you talked about the last time you met.
He is excited about the use of avatars to give presentations when a speaker cannot be in attendance. "I believe I gave the first presentation where I actually used an avatar to present for me…I was in Boston. I was presenting in Los Angeles. It's something I would like, so I could actually go to a presentation and [have it] be like I'm there. I think that actually will happen within about ten years." See the video.
For more from the event, visit Choices in a changing world or watch videos from a panel discussion with UBS thought leaders, hosted by Co-President Global Wealth Management and President Americas at UBS Tom Naratil.